Far too often, we succumb to the idea that there's a single way to train for every lifter. Case in point: Want to get strong—like, seriously strong? Then of course, you're going to live and breathe compound movements, 5 reps per set or less.
Jesse Norris chuckles at these preconceptions—and his training just chucks them. If you follow him on Instagram (which you really should), you'll see that this record-setting powerlifter is a true devotee of high-rep sets, even as the weights rise to where the rest of the world has to just stand and watch. There's a certain set of 10 easy touch-and-go deadlift reps with 495…from a 3-inch deficit…using a burly axle bar and no straps or belt…that remains burned into my memory.
What's more, if you check out his unique split in the article "Lift as Strong as You Look," you'll see that Norris also has three—count them, three—days in his training week labeled "Accessories (mostly isolation movements)." That means bodybuilding, baby.
Seriously, how many world-class powerlifters would take a perfectly nice Friday afternoon and use it to train isolation-focused legs with a bikini competitor? Probably not many. But when Norris recently visited the Bodybuilding.com gym with fellow Kaged Muscle athlete and up-and-coming NPC bikini competitor Erna Palic, the burn was on the menu.
This week, no matter who you are or what you're training for, put aside your preconceptions and try what Norris deceptively calls a "quick little leg workout." It's just 3 supersets, 4 sets apiece, and shouldn't take you more than 30-45 minutes. Then limp home, eat up, and trust that you've given your legs what they needed.
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Leg Extension and Curl
Your first set is almost like a warm-up, so go fairly light and nail all the reps on both movements. Once you move to the single-leg reps, it may take a little tinkering to find the right load to use. You should be struggling to hit your last rep or two, but still get it.
"You don't need to go heavy on this exercise," Norris advises. "You're out there in an awkward position, bending straight over."
How light is light? Norris once deadlifted 826 pounds, and is up over 500 for reps regularly. He's using between 185-225 in the video. Just saying. So, don't be a tough guy.
"Keep the bar close to you. Don't let it roll out," he further advises. As for depth, while Norris touches the ground with each rep, Palic doesn't. But remember, this is a guy who uses a 3-inch deficit, so the normal rules don't apply to him. Just go low enough to feel a serious stretch on your hamstrings and glutes with a slight knee bend, while keeping a neutral spine. The point is the stretch.
"The idea is that you're hitting hamstrings and glutes, and then quads. Kinda like we did on the first circuit," Norris says.
As such, he hits his reps on the leg press in a very quad-centric style: feet fairly high on the platform, shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out just slightly, and pushing through the heels.
Dumbbell Walking Lunge
"This is going to hurt," Norris promises.
Of course, walking lunges are a quad and glute incinerator on their own—let alone after 8 sets of additional work. So yes, it'll suck. Having someone mentally push you through it, like Norris does for Palic, isn't a bad idea. As you fatigue, resist the urge to let that front knee drift too far out; just keep pushing through the heel, lean forward slightly at the torso, and try not to slip on the teardrops.
Seated Calf Raise
The last exercise is also the simplest. Just sit down and knock out your reps, making sure to use a respectable range of motion and feel the stretch at the bottom of each rep. Now, stagger off the machine, slug a shake, and hit the showers.